How I Know When It's Good
(That is a good phrase: "it is exactly like." It swallows itself, semiotically. The thing is, but then, wait--it's not, it is, instead like, but the likeness is exact, making it a facsimile--and yet it cannot be, because it was only ever a metaphor to begin with.)
When I recoil, I sometimes go and walk to the mirror and look at myself for a few minutes. I study all of the imperfections of my face. Sometimes I tweeze a hair. Sometimes I apply thick coats of mascara, which is a very satisfying thing to do. I like to run a needle or a safety pin through the clumpy parts of my lashes. (Although with this stuff--product endorsement alert--clumps are rare. I miss them a little, not them, but the opportunity to get rid of them. I wonder if there's anything else I can say that about.) Sometimes instead of going to the mirror I go to the refrigerator, open the door, and look around for a while. I might eat a piece of Easter candy. I might pour a glass of water. I drink a lot of water when I write.
I might be up, away from my desk, for a while. Walking around, looking at things in my house, or at nothing in particular. I wonder how many miles I logged writing The School? Writing everything I've ever written?
Suddenly I'll think of my next sentence, and I'll charge back to my desk and write it in a rush. Another might follow. But soon enough, I'll get that breathless, too-hot feeling, and have to back away.
I am aware that fear often impedes my progress. I feel frightened that I won't be able to match, in words, the tableau in my head. Precious, I know, but true. I don't want to ruin the thing by creating the thing. The thing is perfect in its potential, in its inchoateness. After a while, this kind of thinking pisses me off enough that I need to just finish, and it's like a reversal of all of my instincts. I mean, I could house-waltz forever, tweezing and nibbling and backing ever away, but at some point, my other personality comes out, the one that leans on the horn and tells the mother to get to the bottom line. And then I write the way I wish I could always write--fixedly, purposefully. But if I always wrote that way, there would probably be less pleasure, less relief. It would be basic, instead of triumphant. Agony is a lady, and ladies need come first.
Labels: writing about writing